With flags and fireworks, 71st Independence Day celebrations get underway
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With flags and fireworks, 71st Independence Day celebrations get underway

Torch-lighting ceremony in Jerusalem kicks off national party as somber speeches give way to fireworks and concerts across the country

Performers dance during the main rehearsal of the 71st anniversary Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, on April 6, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Performers dance during the main rehearsal of the 71st anniversary Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, on April 6, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.

At ceremony honoring terror victims, Netanyahu says Gaza campaign ‘not over’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggests Israelis could soon see renewed fighting in the Gaza Strip following a major flareup between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the coastal enclave over the weekend.

“The IDF acted with resoluteness against the terrorist elements in Gaza. I have said and am saying again — the campaign is not over,” Netanyahu says at a state ceremony for terror victims at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during a ceremony marking Memorial Day in Jerusalem, on May 7, 2019. (RONEN ZVULUN/POOL/AFP)

He says he was acting with “consideration” to ensure Israel’s security.

Netanyahu also notes the “moral chasm” between Israel and its enemies.

“We only want to build, they only want to destroy,” he says.

Jewish Agency Memorial Day service pays tribute to Jews killed in US shootings

The Jewish Agency pays special tributes to the 12 Jews killed in two shooting attacks in the US — the October 2018 shooting in Pittsburgh and the April 2019 shooting in the San Diego-area city of Poway — in a ceremony marking Israel’s annual Memorial Day.

Marnie Fienberg, the daughter-in-law of Joyce Fienberg who was killed in Pittsburgh, was invited by the Jewish Agency to participate in the Agency ceremony, as was Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh president and CEO Jeff Finkelstein.

Marnie Fienberg, the daughter-in-law of Joyce Fienberg, who was murdered in the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, lights a memorial torch together with Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel Isaac Herzog (Credit: Noam Sharon)

“On this day, the Jews of the Diaspora unite in grief with all the residents of the State of Israel,” Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog says after lighting a memorial torch together with Fienberg. “And here, too, in Israel, we are united in grief with the Jewish families in the Diaspora, those who lost loved ones in terrorist acts and those whose children chose to wear their olive uniforms and gave their lives protecting Israel.”

Gaza terror groups warn violence could soon resume

Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip are warning that violence could soon resume in the coastal enclave if Israel does not honor a ceasefire to end a major round of fighting over the weekend.

Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese daily close to Hezbollah, quotes sources in the so-called joint command center of Gaza-based terror groups saying they gave Israel a week to honor parts of the agreement as they were aware of “the existence of information that the occupation does not wish to implement what was agreed upon.”

The sources reportedly warn that “despite the resistance’s estimations that head of the enemy’s government Benjamin Netanyahu does not intend to go to a widescale confrontation now or in the near future, the leadership of the resistance has undertaken many security measures out of concern that major leaders will be targeted with the goal of the enemy improving its image in the eyes of its society following the painful blows it took in the last confrontation.”

Palestinians walk by a house following a late night Israeli missile strike in town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, May. 6, 2019. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

The paper says that the sources also reveal “warnings that the resistance sent to the interlocutors that if the occupation neglects the implementation of what was agreed upon this week, the situation will go towards an escalation,” adding, “The next round will be more intense and harsh, in which the response to the policy of assassinations will be different and will include major hits on the center, especially Tel Aviv, in addition to employing other military tools.”

China says US ‘aggravated’ Iran tensions

China is accusing the US of having”further aggravated” tensions over the Iran nuclear issue.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says that China appreciated Iran’s “strict implementation” of its 2015 nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from a year ago.

Geng said China “calls on all parties concerned to exercise restraint” and avoid escalating tensions.

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) meets Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on May 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Thomas Peter)

Geng’s comments came after Washington moved to deploy an aircraft carrier and a bomber wing to confront unspecified threats from Tehran and after Iran threatened Wednesday to resume higher enrichment of uranium in 60 days if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for the 2015 deal.

A key Iranian ally and trading partner, China was a signatory to the deal and continues to support it, along with Britain, Russia, the European Union, France and Germany.

— AP

Russia says Iran deal complicated by ‘irresponsible behavior’ from US

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the situation surrounding the fate of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord has been complicated by “irresponsible behavior” from Washington.

Lavrov is meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Moscow on Wednesday. The nuclear deal will be at the top of their agenda after Iran announced it would suspend some of its commitments in response to US sanctions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meeting in Moscow, Russia, May 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Lavrov says they will discuss the “unacceptable situation” that has been exacerbated by the United States. Russia appears poised to stand by Tehran and cast blame on Washington, which withdrew from the nuclear deal last year. Moscow is a signatory to the deal, along with the European Union, Britain, France, Germany and China.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned there would be consequences for “ill-advised” steps taken by the US against Iran.

— AP

Prince Harry, Meghan show off their baby boy to the public

Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (R), and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, with their newborn son in St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London on May 8, 2019. (Dominic Lipinski/POOL/AFP)
Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (R), and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pose for a photo with their newborn baby son in St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London on May 8, 2019. (Dominic Lipinski/POOL/AFP)

Germany urges Iran’s ‘full implementation’ of nuclear deal

Germany is urging Iran to uphold the nuclear pact after Tehran said it would end curbs on its uranium enrichment stockpile unless other powers helped it bypass renewed US sanctions.

Berlin wants to keep alive the agreement, says German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert, adding that “We as Europeans, as Germans, will play our part and we expect full implementation from Iran as well.”


Britain calls Iran suspension of nuclear deal curbs ‘unwelcome step’

Britain on calls Iran’s decision to no longer respect the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers an “unwelcome step” that could lead to new Western sanctions.

“Today’s announcement from Tehran is, I have to say to the House, an unwelcome step. We urge Iran not to take further escalatory steps and to stand by its commitments,” Foreign Office minister Mark Field tells parliament.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman tells reporters: “We are extremely concerned about this announcement.”

“This deal is a crucial agreement which makes the world safer and we will ensure it remains in place for as long as Iran upholds these commitments,” he says.


Rare photos from Israel’s War of Independence to be auctioned

The Jerusalem-based Kedem Auction House announces that a rare collection of photographs from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence that offer a glimpse into both sides of the struggle will go up for auction next week in Jerusalem.

The auction house says the “remarkably rare and valuable collection” of pictures, which had been designated to be printed by newspapers during the conflict, were unearthed last week, but gives no further details of how they were found, or who they currently belong to.

Among the pictures are shots from the Arab side of the war, including fighters ambushing Jewish caravans near Jerusalem, Arab women waiting for rations in the Holy City and Jordanian King Abdullah I and the Iraqi Regent Abd al-Ilah in Oman dressed in military uniforms just weeks before the Arab armies attacked the fledgling Jewish state.

Concrete wall put up along road where Israeli man was killed in missile attack

The Israel Defense Forces erects a concrete barrier around a section of road just north of the Gaza Strip where earlier this week a man was killed when a Kornet anti-tank guided missile fired from the enclave struck his car.

The military says it also plans to construct a wall along the surrounding roadways that will be two meters (6.56 feet) high and 600 meters (2,00 feet) long to provide protection from such attacks in the currently exposed area.

On Sunday, the Hamas terror group said its fighters fired the missile at the Route 34 highway near the community of Kibbutz Erez. The Kornet slammed into Moshe Feder’s car. The 68-year-old grandfather sustained a serious shrapnel wound to the leg, causing significant blood loss, and was pronounced dead at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center after CPR efforts failed.
— Judah Ari Gross

Israeli ambassador to Brazil honored by President Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro awards the National Order of the Southern Cross, the country’s highest national honor for high-ranking guests, to Israel’s ambassador in Brasilia, Yossi Shelley. Ten other people were given the award at the same time, all Brazilian government officials except for Shelley.

Palestinian killed in rocket attack to be recognized as terror victim

The Defense Ministry will recognize a Palestinian killed in Ashkelon by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip last year as a terror victim and compensate his family.

Mahmoud Abu Asabeh, a 48-year-old from the West Bank city of Halhul, was in Israel on a work permit when the building in Ashkelon he was staying at was struck by a rocket during a major flareup in November between the Israeli military and Gaza-based terror groups.

Mahmoud Abu Asabeh, 48, from the West Bank town of Halhul north of Hebron, was killed late Monday, November 12, 2018, when a rocket launched by Gaza terrorists struck a home in the southern Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. (Twitter screen capture)

The family will now be compensated financially and receive a monthly stipend of over NIS 10,000 ($2,700.)

“We welcome the Defense Ministry decision. However, clearly no financial compensation can heal the wounds,” family lawyer Mohammed Raheel tells Channel 12 news. The decision comes after his family sued Israel for tens of millions of shekels, saying the time it took rescue workers to find his body led to his death.

Liberman: Israel must prepare for Iranian attacks following nuclear deal walkback

Former defense minster Avigdor Liberman says Israel must prepare for Iranian attacks after Tehran announced it was walking back its commitment to the international accord curbing its nuclear program.

“The ultimatum posed by Iran poses an immediate and tangible danger to the security interests of Israel and the countries of the free world, and should not be seen only as a power struggle between Iran and the US,” the Yisrael Beytenu chairman says in a tweet.

“We must therefore be ready also for operations of the various Iranian-backed groups against us, as well as direct Iranian attacks on Israeli targets in the region,” he adds.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said earlier today that the Islamic Republic would keep its excess enriched uranium and heavy water, and set a 60-day deadline for new terms for its nuclear deal.

Israelis on Arkia flight stand for Memorial Day siren

A group of Israelis on an Arkia flight stood for a moment of silence on the Jewish state’s Memorial Day to honor the men and women who died during active duty or were killed in terror attacks.

Auschwitz museum protests camp photos on skirts and pillows

Museum authorities at the Auschwitz-Birkenau former Nazi German death camp in Poland are protesting an online vendor selling miniskirts, pillows and other items bearing photos of the camp, where around 1.1 million people were killed during the Holocaust.

On Twitter, the museum addressed the vending site, redbubble, to say that offering such products with images of Auschwitz is “rather disturbing and disrespectful.”

Australian-based redbubble, which allows artists to create designs for T-shirts and other fabric items and sell them directly to the public, says it is taking “immediate action to remove” the items, which it said are not in line with its guidelines.

Items offered by various makers included miniskirts, pillows and tote bags with bleak black-and-white post-war images of the camp and the railway tracks on which trains brought people to Birkenau and its gas chambers.

— with AP

White House official says US eyeing further sanctions on Iran ‘very soon’

A top official in US President Donald Trump’s administration says that more sanctions would be imposed on Iran “very soon,” after Tehran announced it was suspending some of its commitments under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal it signed with major powers, setting up a possible return to high-level uranium enrichment.

Speaking at a conference in Washington, Tim Morrison, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense, says that the United States isn’t done with punitive measures against the Islamic Republic, the Reuters news agency reported.

“Expect more sanctions soon. Very soon,” he says, according to the report.

Gaza artists call on Eurovision singers to boycott Israel

Palestinian artists are calling on Eurovision song contestants to boycott the international music competition that Israel is hosting next week.

The Gaza Strip-based Palestinian Artists Association says that Israel is using the event to “perpetuate oppression, promote injustice or whitewash a brutal apartheid regime.”

The artists cited the killing of over 60 Palestinians during Gaza border protests on May 14 last year, the same day Israel won the Eurovision. The Hamas terror group said that at least 50 of those killed were its members.

The association held a sit-in outside the EU’s Gaza office and wrote a letter of protest.

— with agencies

Trump invokes ‘privilege,’ aims to block full Mueller report release

The White House is invoking executive privilege, reserving the right to block the full release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia probe, escalating President Donald Trump’s battle with Congress.

The administration’s decision was announced just as the House Judiciary Committee was gaveling in to consider holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress over failure to release the report.

— AP

Shtisel renewed for third series, hit show’s writer confirms

Shtisel has been renewed for a third series and work on the new storylines have already begun, the hit show’s writer has confirmed, according to the UK’s Jewish News.

Yehonatan Indursky confirmed the news that millions of fans have been hoping for to a 300-strong audience at Norrice Lea Synagogue, Hampstead Garden Suburb, last night, the paper reports.

A scene from the Israeli TV series ‘Shtisel,’ being adapted for US audiences by the co-creator of ‘Friends,’ Marta Kauffman. October 19, 2016 (Youtube screenshot)

Shtisel first aired in 2013 in Israel, but the popular drama’s reach went global thanks to a deal announced with Netflix. The family drama follows a young bachelor and his widowed father, who search for love within the strict rules of religious observance.

Pompeo says US will wait to see what Iran does

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States will wait to see if Iran follows through on threats to limit its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal before deciding how to react.

Speaking in London with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Pompeo says Iran’s threat to resume higher enrichment of uranium in 60 days appeared aspirational and was vague on whether it would follow through.

Because US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord last year, Pompeo says the administration’s position on compliance depends on what Iran does, not what it says it may do.

Iran threatened earlier Wednesday to stop full compliance with the deal unless the European parties are able to deliver on sanctions relief it had been promised. That relief has been hindered by the US withdrawal and the re-imposition of sanctions.

— AP

Israel set to transition from Memorial to Independence Day

Israel is set to abruptly cross over from grief to jubilation at nightfall, as Memorial Day for the country’s fallen soldiers and terror victims comes to a close and its 71st Independence Day begins.

Mournful and somber speeches will give way to fireworks, concerts and parties across the country, with flags promptly raised back from half-staff.

The Israeli flag flies on Masada against the morning sky (iStock)

The main event kicking off Independence day will be the annual state ceremony at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, featuring a speech from Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, the lighting of 12 torches — which symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel in the Bible — by people who are seen to have made an outstanding contribution to society, and much singing and dancing.

Prince Harry and Meghan name son… Archie

Britain’s Prince Harry and wife Meghan announce their new son will be called Archie, ending months of intense speculation.

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are pleased to announce they have named their first-born child: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor,” the couple announce on their Instagram account.


Rivlin in Independence Day message: Who’d have believed 71 years ago that we’d be where we are today?

Dear friends at home here in Israel and around the world. Happy Independence Day! Chag Sameach! Israel is seventy-one years old. Who would have believed seventy-one years ago that we would build cities from the swamps? That roads and railways would cross the sands? Who could have imagined then the wonder that is the State of Israel?

We came from the four corners of the earth: from Europe and from Jerusalem, from North Africa and from Tzfat, from Yemen and from South America to build a home here. All of us together, including the Jewish communities around the world, have built this wonder and, as it is written “this is an exceedingly good land.”

My dear friends, when I was a boy we were not allowed to fly our flag. But I dreamed that one day I would see it flying in Jerusalem. Today, the Israeli flag flies everywhere, and even visited space recently.

We give thanks to those who gave their lives for our country. Because of them we can celebrate here today. This year, after years of pain and hard work we were able to bring home IDF soldier Zachary Baumel, may his memory be a blessing. The State of Israel will not cease until all our missing soldiers are brought home. That is our duty.

Amos Oz, my school friend from Jerusalem who recently left us, reduced all the commandments to one: “Do not cause pain.” This year may we all try harder to not cause pain. Israeli society needs it. We all need it.

Let me finish with a prayer and a wish for our country to go with it for at least another seventy-one years: “May He who makes peace above, bring peace on us and on all the people of Israel!”

Happy Independence day, Israel!”

Independence Day ceremony opens with video praising Israel’s achievements, and Netanyahu’s

The official state ceremony for Israel’s 71st Independence Day celebrations opens with a video narrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praising the “incredible” achievements of the Jewish State since its creation, as well as those of his own premiership.

“Every morning when I make my way to the Prime Minister’s Office, I think about the incredible things we have achieved in such a short time,” Netanyahu says over rolling clips of himself and Israeli landmarks.

Shalva band sings in Independance Day celebrations

The Shalva Band, which dropped its widely supported bid to represent Israel at Eurovision 2019 after organizers refused to budge on the group’s request not to perform on Shabbat, performs as the first artists at the state Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem.

The Shalva Band performs during the main rehearsal of the 71st anniversary Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, on April 6, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The band — made up of musicians with disabilities, some of whom are observant Jews — had been named as a finalist on the reality TV show “Rising Star,” which determines Israel’s entry for the annual song contest, to be held later this month in Tel Aviv.

Israel had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the European Broadcasting Union to bend the rules to allow the band to compete without performing on Shabbat.

SpaceIL chairman and co-founder light 1st Independence Day torch

SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn and one of the company’s co-founders, Kfir Damari, light the first torch at Israel’s 71st Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem.

Twelve torches are lit in total — to symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel in the Bible — by people who are seen to have made an outstanding contribution to society.

Following the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet’s failure to land safely on the moon last week, Kahn announced he was launching project Beresheet 2, effective immediately, adding: “We started something and we need to finish it. We’ll put our flag on the moon.”

Kahn provided a large chunk of the $100 million (NIS 370 million) required to build and launch the spacecraft — a novel approach that came at a fraction of the cost of previous, state-funded efforts to land on the moon.

Damari, along with Yariv Bash and Yonatan Winetraub, hatched the plan to send an unmanned spacecraft to the moon while they were in a bar in the city of Holon one evening.

Edelstein at Independence Day ceremony: Israel succeeded and will continue to succeed ‘against all odds’

Speaking at the official state ceremony for Independence Day, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein says that Israel was built on a belief that any odds can be overcome, and that must be what drives the country today as well:

“The people of Israel have one slogan: ‘against all odds.’ This country was founded by people who dreamed and believed. The children of Israel — do not get confused; dream, believe and succeed!

“We are a story about a rebellious and daring people with one slogan — ‘Against all odds.'”

“One of the highlights of the torches this year are people who succeeded against all odds. Some faced enormous challenges and some had to deal with an extremely cruel fate, but they never gave up. Today they are here, writing another chapter in our story — against all odds!

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the 71st anniversary Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, on May 8, 2019. (Yitzhak Harari/Knesset)

“I turn to you, the child who is watching the ceremony now. I know you are debating whether to go for your dream, wondering what they will say or whether you have a chance? I tell you now: Believe in yourself. You have a chance. And each and every one of us has a chance.

“This country arose thanks to men and women who, in the face of an impossible reality, succeeded in achieving tremendous achievements. They were not extraordinary geniuses and had no superpowers, but they believed they could succeed.

“Keep believing that you are part of a wonderful story that began in this country against all odds, and its continuation depends on you.”

Pittsburgh federation head lights Independence Day torch

Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh President Jeff Finkelstein lights a torch at Israel’s 71st Independence Day ceremony in honor of the 11 members of his congregation murdered at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue earlier this year, when a gunman opened fire during Shabbat morning services, in the largest anti-Semitic attack in American history.

“I am here representing those who lost their lives because of their Judaism,” Finkelstein says at the ceremony.

“I wish I didn’t have it. I wish I was never given it,” he told The Times of Israel on Tuesday in Jerusalem.

Israeli Air Force marks Independence Day with annual flyover

The Israeli Air Force is marking Israel’s 71st Independence Day with its annual flyover of cities across the country.

The event kicked off this morning with a number of airshows at bases around Israel before the flyover passed over communities in the south of the country, which the military added to the itinerary this year in a show of support for locals after last’s weekends heavy rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

By the early afternoon, the flyover was passing over the Jerusalem area before returning to the south, where it is set to wrap up in Beersheba around 2:45 p.m.

Visitors to the bases could also see the IAF’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which has been used to intercept rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, as well as other military equipment.

People watch the Israeli Air Force’s annual flyover for Independence Day on a beach in Tel Aviv, May 9. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
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